Spelling Troubles and How to Fix Them

Dear Carrie – Spelling Troubles

How can I fix my 7 year-old daughter’s spelling troubles?

My 7 year-old has spelling troubles! She did list one and is doing spelling list two now. She’s had trouble with spelling and learning to read. Recently, her reading has improved dramatically. She is now 2/3 of the way through the Emerging Reader’s Set. However, her spelling is only slightly improved. In Beyond, on the first spelling day, she’d study the card, turn it over, and often spell it wrong. Sometimes she didn’t even notice it was wrong when she checked it. Twice so far in Bigger she’s had all the words right by the end of the unit. This is a major improvement! With the spelling lists followed by dictation, will it get better? I’m a believer in dictation which is working fabulously for my oldest. I own All About Spelling level 1, but honestly, it was a miserable experience with my older daughter. So, not interested in that.


“Ms. Please Help My Daughter with Spelling Troubles”

Dear “Ms. Please Help My Daughter with Spelling Troubles,”

Spelling in the early years is often quite tied to a child’s reading. This is because kiddos at the early stages of spelling are often sounding their spelling words out as they write them. So, in the early years, as your child’s reading progresses, the spelling will lag a bit behind that reading progress in coming along too. This is pretty much what you’re seeing now. As you see your child’s reading is coming along, you see her spelling is now progressing a bit more too. That is not to say that in the long haul spelling and reading progress are always linked. This is not necessarily true, as the spelling words get longer and harder. However, you are already seeing some improvement with your daughter’s spelling troubles, and it is certainly in part linked to her recent improvement in reading.

Children to whom spelling does not come naturally need regular practice in properly capturing the correct mental image of a word.

Another thing to keep in mind is that for kiddos to whom spelling does not come naturally more drill is not really what they need. Regular practice in capturing the correct mental image of a word is the skill that truly needs to be developed in order for the mind to know whether a word that has been written is written correctly. This is the skill that is being developed in Beyond and Bigger. So, one of the best things you can do to help your daughter with her spelling troubles is to work through the daily spelling lessons in Bigger.

Immediately erasing any incorrectly spelled word during spelling lessons will help lessen your daughter’s spelling troubles in an immediate, tangible way.

Since properly capturing the correct mental image of a word is so important, we keep the other writing the child is doing during that season of learning to copywork or copying from a correctly written model. This is because we don’t want the mind capturing the incorrect image (and having a child inventively spell many words results in the incorrect spelling beginning to “look right” in the mind’s eye.) So, to prevent this same thing from happening during spelling lessons be sure to immediately erase any incorrectly spelled word and have the child copy the correct spelling over top of the erased word instead. This will help lessen your daughter’s spelling troubles in an immediate, tangible way.

Be vigilant as you do the spelling lessons, and that vigilance will begin to lessen your daughter’s spelling troubles.

Think of spelling time as mental training rather than seeking memorization of specific words. In that way, every error is an opportunity to swoop in and retrain the mind. Be vigilant as you do the spelling lessons. As soon as an incorrect letter is written in the spelling of a word, erase it away and redirect to the correct image (showing the index card with the correct spelling upon it). Be sure to use a dark colored marker on a white index card too when writing the spelling words (as directed in the guide), which helps the mind capture the image of the word even more clearly. Over time you will see continued progress and improvement within your daughter’s spelling troubles.

Dictation, as you have seen with your older daughter, will help your daughter gradually further improve her spelling skills.

Dictation builds on the foundation of mental picturing that is practiced in the spelling lists in Beyond and Bigger. It is where kiddos actually start to pay more attention to spelling in the context of sentences. This is the moment where they realize spelling is about writing a string of words correctly. It is mental imaging taken to the next level. This is often where kiddos start doing a bit better in spelling, if they had a hard time in the word lists that they did before beginning dictation. This is because in dictation they are putting to use the mental imaging and beginning proofreading and auditory skills they practiced in Beyond and Bigger and are applying them.

Students eventually transfer dictation skills to proofreading and correcting their work to be sure the right mental image remains.

Through studied dictation kiddos learn to transfer the skills of capturing a correct mental image of a string of words, auditorily hearing the sentence and repeating it back correctly, writing the words in the correct sequence (including all punctuation and capitalization), and proofreading and correcting their work to make sure the right mental image remains (rather than the wrong one). Over time, these skills transfer to kiddos’ proofreading their own written work in other subjects. You can see this is all a part of spelling, but it is a process that takes years to internalize. By practicing and honing these skills over time, students spelling troubles begin to diminish.

I encourage you to keep moving forward, patiently guiding and diligently correcting.

This is why I encourage you to keep on going, patiently guiding and diligently correcting. You will see progress as the years pass. Your daughter’s spelling troubles will gradually lessen. Just as you saw improvement in her reading, you will see improvement in her spelling. Just make sure not to put the focus on word memorization. Rather, place the focus on the ultimate long-term goal of writing correctly and proofreading in daily work.

In Closing

My own third son struggled with the spelling lists in Beyond and Bigger too. He improved as he headed into dictation, even though he is by no means a natural speller. Referring back to his reading material to copy the correct spelling of words has also been a ‘help’ to him. He uses this ‘help’ especially while writing his written narrations. This is another moment where capturing the correct mental image of words (i.e. names and places) and transferring them to paper comes in handy. I share this to encourage you that over time with these methods, even kiddos who struggle with spelling will make gains in the area where it really counts.


How can my high school daughter earn her Fine Arts credit?

Dear Carrie

How can my high school daughter earn her Fine Arts credit?

For high school, my daughter will be doing Heart of Dakota’s Missions to Modern Marvels (MTMM), World Geography (WG), World History (WH), and U.S. History I (USI). My question is about an art/music credit. So far, the guides have all had an art or music study. We have loved this! In MTMM, we will have the nature journal. However, I don’t see any art in the WG guide, I don’t know about the WH guide either. Will my daughter be able to earn a credit in art/music in high school if she’s doing MTMM through USI? Thanks!


“Ms. Please Help My High School Daughter Earn Her Art/Music Credit”

Dear “Ms. Please Help My High School Daughter Earn Her Art/Music Credit,”

Just like you, I have been very pleased by the various areas of fine arts emphasized throughout our guides. I enjoyed the watercolor painting lessons my boys did in Creation to Christ (CTC). Then, I loved the Charlotte Mason-style picture study and art appreciation sessions in Resurrection to Reformation (RTR). Next, my boys and I enjoyed the music appreciation and composer study in Revival to Revolution (RevtoRev). After that, we loved the nature journal and related art-lessons in MTMM. We’ve happily read, written, and discussed poetry all throughout every guide from Beyond on up! To top it off, my boys have all become better drawers through the years as we’ve done Draw and Write Through History!

Making Art Appreciation a Part of the Fine Arts Credit

When we arrived at the high school years, and the Fine Arts credit loomed, it was hard to decide in what direction to go in pursuit of that credit. I must admit that with my oldest son (who didn’t have the benefit of having the HOD guides already written), I floundered a bit in how to pursue this credit in a way that would be interesting to him. So, we tried two different music- related approaches, and one was more successful than the other. Yet, as I looked at my next son coming up, I really wanted to focus more deeply on art appreciation. This made sense because he had more recently (and thoroughly) covered music and the composers already through Revival to Revolution.

Having a Hands-On Component, Narrative Readings, Picture Study, and a Christian Influence Within Our Fine Arts Credit

I also really wanted to have the Christian influence wound within our Fine Arts credit, as well as having a hands-on component to the program too. As part of the study, I wanted some living, narrative textual information about the artists along with some follow-up assessments. I desired for this to be combined with some beautiful picture study/viewing. Last, I wanted students of all levels of artistry to be able to enjoy the program and learn to appreciate art. It was a tall order, and one that I wasn’t able to succeed in finding until I wrote the World History guide. I looked a long time (years in fact) before coming to the combination of resources that I will share below. I am excited and happy with the combination, and I pray your daughter enjoys earning her Fine Arts credit in World History too!

God and the History of Art

The first resource in our Fine Arts: Art History/Appreciation course is the 3-part DVD series God and the History of Art. This DVD series is divided into 12 parts, during which Barry Stebbing journeys through the centuries offering Biblical insights into the great art and artists of the ages. This DVD set features beautiful colors, paintings, and classical music. God and the History of Art provides a unique view into many of the great works of art in Western culture. We integrate this series throughout our chronological study of art history. Lessons include the following:

  • What is Art?
  • The Second Commandment
  • Early Christian Art
  • Godly Periods of Art/Byzantine
  • Christian Artists
  • The Dark Ages/Monasteries
  • The Gothic Period
  • The Renaissance
  • The Reformation
  • French Neo-Classical Art
  • American Artist and Other Artists and Styles
Short Lessons in Art History

The next resource in our Fine Arts program is Short Lessons in Art History by Phyllis Clausen Barker. This book includes narrative biographical readings about 37 artists and/or sculptors beginning with “Artists of the Italian Renaissance” and ending with “Contemporary Sculptors.” Short Lessons in Art History brings art to life with lessons that showcase the successes and struggles of legendary artists. The readings build an appreciation for major artists and art movements from the Italian Renaissance to current times. Students are captivated by the high-interest readings on artists and the cultural and personal forces that shaped their work. A full-color insert highlights timeless works of art. Click here to see inside!

Exercises and Activities for Short Lessons in Art History

Exercises and Activities for Short Lessons in Art History is designed as a companion to Short Lessons in Art History. It includes activities that move from basic comprehension (through fill-in-the-blank, word puzzles, crosswords, and matching) to synthesis (through short answer questions) to deeper insight (through independent writing or research topics). Used in combination with the Short Lessons for Art History text, students increase their awareness of various artists and their work and draw their own conclusions about what makes the work of certain artists timeless. Note: Since the art projects within these lessons are not described or laid out very clearly, and often are overwhelming to perform without more instruction, we omit the “Art Projects” part of the activities and cover this area in a more manageable way. Click here to see inside!

Our Charlotte Mason-Inspired Art Gallery Student Notebook

As narrative as the Short Lessons in Art History text is, it does not shine in the area of full color artwork. While it would seem easy to add to a book of art prints to accompany the text, this route had many barriers. First, many of these types of full-color art print books are very expensive. Next, the prints often contain multiple images with nudity. Last, even after overlooking cost and the lack of clothing issues, many books didn’t contain prints of all of the artists the students were studying. To remedy these problems, we designed an Art Gallery Student Notebook that contains at least one full-color print for each artist. The Art Gallery Notebook is used in conjunction with the Short Lessons in Art History readings and provides a beautiful collection of paintings by famous artists throughout history. It is a very CM-inspired part of the program!

Pat Knepley’s Art Projects DVD Set

The final component of our Fine Arts program is the Art Projects DVD Set from See the Light. When I found this set, I knew the final piece of our Fine Arts program had (at long last) fallen into place! This is a 9 DVD Set of art projects designed to be completed at home. The projects on each DVD are narrated, modeled, and taught with a Christian emphasis by master artist Pat Knepley. Each DVD focuses on a different artist and a different type of art project. Projects are divided into 4 separate sessions, and Pat takes you through each step of the lesson on the DVD.

Pacing and Details About the Art Projects Portion of the Fine Arts Credit

We have students do one art project session each week, completing an art project every 4 weeks. The design of the projects makes this an art class that your students can enjoy and excel at in the comfort of your own home. We plan for sessions to last about an hour with the DVD running about 30 minutes. This allows time for students to pause and work along with Pat and take their time to be creative and do the project well. Some students may take longer to work.

Each DVD includes art history, art elements, art principles, step-by-step tutoring, and integrated Biblical truths. At the end, students have created a portfolio of 9 completed projects as part of their Fine Arts study. Artists and corresponding projects are the following (the art history style and medium are listed in parentheses):

  • Tiffany Window in the style of Louis Comfort Tiffany (Tiffany Windows: Marker)
  • Repeated Sweets in the style of Wayne Thiebaud (Pop Art: Watercolor)
  • Paper Jungle in the style Henri Rousseau (Naive Art, Collage: Paper Collage)
  • Pointillism Fruit in the style of Georges Seurat (Pointillism, Impressionism: Still Life)
  • Poppy Collage in the style of Georgia O’Keefe (Realism, Abstraction: Tissue Paper Collage)
  • Dreams of Joseph in the style of Marc Chagall (Surrealism, Symbolism, Fauvism: Wet-on-Wet Painting)
  • Horsing Around in the style of Edgar Degas (Impressionism: Chalk Pastel)
  • Peaceful Seas in the style of Winslow Homer (Realism: Mixed Media)
  • Sunflowers in the style of Vincent Van Gogh (Post-Impressionism: Oil Pastel)
Two Options for Earning Credit 

The last benefit to the Fine Arts program that I’ve outlined is that there will be two options for credit with this program. The first option (and the recommended option) will be to earn one-full credit in Fine Arts: Art History/Appreciation by using all of the resources outlined above and scheduled in our guide.

The second option will be to earn 1/2 credit in Fine Arts: Art History/Appreciation by omitting the Art Projects DVD Set. This option will utilize all of the remaining art resources outlined above, but will omit the once weekly art project session. This option is only recommended if you have already met part of your Fine Arts requirement some other way, or if your state only requires 1/2 credit in Fine Arts.


How necessary are the Home Instructor’s Guides for Singapore Math 5A-6B?

Dear Carrie

How necessary are the Home Instructor’s Guides for Singapore Primary Math levels 5A-6B?

I see Heart of Dakota (HOD) carries the Home Instructor’s Guides (HIG’s) for Singapore Math 5A-6B. Do you find most families need the optional teacher’s guides for levels 5A-6B? I was using a different math program. However, I am thinking about doing levels 5A-6B before moving my oldest daughter into Pre-Algebra. I noticed that HOD doesn’t carry the optional HIG’s for the younger levels. My daughter’s other math program teaches math similarly to Singapore. I think she is a bit young to put into Pre-Algebra, and I want to give her brain a little bit more time to develop. So, I am interested in Singapore Math Levels 5A-6B for her. One mother told me she is working all the problems out for her children in Singapore Math Levels 3 and 4 herself. I’d rather not do that! I’m wondering how necessary the HIG’s are? Thanks for your thoughts on this!


“Ms. Please Help Explain How Necessary the HIG’s Are for Singapore Math Levels 5A-6B”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Explain How Necessary the HIG’s Are for Singapore Math Levels 5A-6B,”

I’d be glad to answer your question about the 5A-6B Home Instructor’s Guides (HIG’s)! With our own sons, we used the HIG’s only to refer to when we were stuck. I did not teach from the guide but continued to teach from the textbook. I believe I used the 5A HIG once and the 5B HIG just a couple of times. We referred to the 6A and 6B HIG’s a bit more than that, but still not terribly often. I will say I was grateful to refer to them when we needed them. I did use the Home Instructor’s guides for 5A on up as my answer key too. It was nice to have more fully worked solutions.

Further Thoughts on the Home Instructor’s Guides for Levels 5A-6B

We carry the Home Instructor’s guides for 5A, 5B, 6A, and 6B . Levels 5A-6B seem to be the levels at which they become more helpful. The Teacher’s Manual is not needed at any level, as it is very classroom oriented. So, whether you get the HIG’s for Levels 5A-6B or not comes down to more of a personal preference. In my experience, the HIG’s were nice to have for Levels 5A-5B because of the fully worked solutions, but not totally necessary. Most homeschool families like to have the HIG’s by the time their kiddos reach Levels 6A-6B. Very few families need the HIG’s for levels prior to 5A, which is why we don’t carry them. You can find all of the HIG’s for Levels 5A-6B that we carry by clicking here (just arrow down to the math section).

Helpful Advice for the Homeschool Mama Working Out the Problems in Levels 3 and 4 to Correct them 

On a side note, to the mama who is working out the problems in order to correct them in the younger levels, we do carry the answer keys for 1A-3B in one inexpensive booklet. The answer key for 1A-3B can be found by clicking here.  Likewise, the answer key for 4A-6B is also in one booklet, and that can be found by clicking here (just arrow down to the math section).


Circle Time: Is it worth the stress of adding it to HOD or not?

Dear Carrie

Circle Time: Is it worth the stress of adding it to HOD or not?

First of all, I want to say how incredibly grateful I am for Heart of Dakota (HOD). This is my first year homeschooling, and HOD makes things easy for me! The issue we’re having is not with Heart of Dakota; it is with circle time. I heard about circle time and thought it’d be fun to start my day with it, but some mornings it just isn’t! Since I have a 6 year-old, a 4 year-old, and a 2 year-old, I try to keep it short. We look at the calendar, do our memory verse, stretch, and sing songs. Some mornings my 6 year-old complains about different aspects of circle time, and my 4 year-old just chooses to challenge me on things. I’m wondering if it’s THAT important to keep doing circle time? Or, should I just start their HOD school right away instead? Circle time is stressing me out.


“Ms. Please Help Me Stop Stressing About Circle Time”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me Stop Stressing About Circle Time,”

As homeschool mommas, it is important to choose our battles. With that in mind, I can see how getting a group of little ones together for activities that engage them across their varying levels could result in a battle of wills to get them to stay focused. We haven’t done circle time in our own homeschool for that very reason. Instead, I grouped a few activities from the HOD guide around lunch time for us to do together. You could do the same! These things could be Bible memory work, rhymes, poetry, music, or storytime. That worked better for us and kept us moving forward in our HOD guides with things that were already needing to be completed in the day. (I stopped doing this when my boys were older and when the ages of my boys began to vary more.)

The guides are complete, so there is no need to add more unless your heart truly desires it!

I want my kiddos to be fresh and excited for their school day when we begin. I want to keep my “battles” for their attention for the things that are really needed in each individual child’s school day. This will be different for different ages. Christian music at breakfast and prayer is a great way to start the day. Then, just jump in to the guides. The guides really are complete as written, so there is no need to add more (like circle time) unless your heart truly desires to do so!


Follow-Up reply from “Ms. Please Help Me Stop Stressing About Circle Time”:

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I don’t have much support for homeschooling, so to hear your take on things is priceless. For now, I think we’ll stop doing circle time. I like the idea that was mentioned of how your day should start “happy” and without the stress. The way our circle time is going, this isn’t always the case. I second guess myself a lot about homeschooling (I know I’m believing lies from the enemy), so this is really helping me to persevere. That’s what motherhood is about, right? Persevering and believing God for the reaping of fruit in His time!

What lit path should I take for my daughter who will do World History for 11th grade?

Dear Carrie

What lit path should I take for my daughter who will do World History for 11th grade?

Next year my oldest daughter will be a junior. She’ll be using Heart of Dakota’s (HOD’s) World History. I always love your book choices! My daughter won’t finish all of the high school guides though. So, should I just follow the lit path you have laid out for World History? Or, should I take a different lit path? Since we’ve used HOD since she’s been in 5th grade, she has obviously read tons of great books. However, I don’t want to miss some of the classics that she should have. What are your thoughts on what my daughter should do for lit for her 11th grade WH year?  Thanks for your thoughts on our lit path!


“Ms. Please Help Me with a Lit Path for My Daughter’s 11th Grade Year in World History”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me with a Lit Path for My Daughter’s 11th Grade Year in World History,”

Good question! As far as the novels for the literature portion go, I made a point to put novels I consider especially important in the opening guides of the high school program. The novels in the World Geography guide are classics that are a tremendous stepping stone to the more difficult reading and difficult themes found in the World History guide’s literature. In my opinion, many of the novels in the literature portion of the World History guide are unmatched for their quality and their themes, while still being enjoyable reading. They are memorable and timeless, lingering in the mind long after the book is completed. They have stood the test of time! Still today, they remain classics. I think they should be a part of your daughter’s lit path!

“Ben Hur,” “The Count of Monte Cristo,” and “Les Miserables” – All Important Parts of Your Daughter’s Lit Path

I felt these novels were so important that I had my oldest son read several on that list (as a senior). Why? Well, I did not want him to exit high school without experiencing those books. (I hadn’t written all of the high school guides by the time my oldest son was a senior). He read Ben-Hur, The Count of Monte Cristo, and Les Miserables (along with other novels). They were his favorite books of that year. My husband read all 3 as well, simply because our son was so enthused about them. I cannot say enough about these titles. The life lessons to be learned as students read these books, the quotable lines of the characters, the rich language, and the allusions to the Bible in these books are amazing.

“The Scarlet Pimpernel” – A Winning Part of Your Daughter’s Lit Path

My oldest son also chose to read several sequels to The Scarlet Pimpernel, simply because he loved the first one so much! My husband enjoyed The Scarlet Pimpernel too, and my older sister (who was a high school literature teacher and has homeschooled her 7 kiddos for the last 15+ years) said it was one of her favorites of all time. This makes The Scarlet Pimpernel a winner here. Our son had read the other books on the World History literature list in previous years, with the exception of Pearl Maiden, which we included because of its terrific themes and because it is a great Haggard book (much preferred by me over Haggard’s classic King Solomon’s Mines, which I did not like due to its dark violence).

“A Man for All Seasons” – An Important Classic on Your Daughter’s Lit Path

After watching the movie version of A Man for All Seasons, and having our pastor refer to it in a sermon, my husband and I discovered that play was such a picture into the time of Henry the VIII that it had to be included. What a classic I found it to be after I read it alongside the study of that time period! It brings up another side to Cranmer and Luther. This book too shows up on many classic book lists for a reason!

“King Arthur” – A Legendary Part to Include Within Your Daughter’s Lit Path

In my opinion, reading about the legend of King Arthur (even with the character of Merlin), is very important. This is because the legends of Arthur are a part of understanding medieval times, because they show Britain at a time when the Christian religion was overtaking the religion of the Celtic Druids of the past. Known for his themes of bravery, honor, and love, Howard Pyle’s Arthur and his noble traits illustrate the selflessness a king should have for his people. It was for these traits that Arthur is remembered in legend, and those legends show up in so many ways everywhere! Please note that this is the only version of the Arthurian legends that we recommend!

“Julius Caesar,” “Animal Farm,” and “The Celestial Railroad”- Each Important Parts of Your Daughter’s Lit Path

Julius Caesar is one of the “tamer” of Shakespeare’s plays (and omits the bawdy humor that is found in other Shakespeare plays). Exploring the issue of how the thirst for power affects those who desire it is a good life lesson that comes out in Julius Caesar, plus the play draws you in with the inner-workings of who is really able to be trusted as you see the conspiracy play out (and watch its aftermath).

Animal Farm is a book that really shows socialism in a way that students will never forget. It is terrific to read along with the time period of WWII, which is where we include it.

The Celestial Railroad is a wonderful book to read after reading Pilgrim’s Progress. This is because Hawthorne’s version of travel to the Celestial City has been updated to reflect modern times. Travelers no longer have to walk to the city, but can instead travel by train. Their burdens are no longer carried on their backs but instead are stowed in the luggage compartment! When Celestial Railroad is read as students are completing Pilgrim’s Progress it has a huge impact! This is the book that will end your year. As you can see, I wouldn’t want your student to miss the books on the World History literature list. I feel they are amazing classics that all students should read!